Jamie Coots, the snake-handling preacher from the National Geographic Channel's reality show "Snake Salvation, died Saturday evening after being bitten by one of the reptiles he was famous for handling. Middlesboro (Ky.) police confirmed that Coots died as a result of a snakebite he received during services at a church in Kentucky.
The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo TV) Feb. 17 that Jamie Coots was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro, the same church he presided over. He refused to seek treatment after receiving the snake's bite.
Cody Winn, another preacher present who witnessed the snake attack, said, according to WBIR-TV, he was beside Coots when he was bitten. "Jamie went across the floor," he recalled. "He had one of the rattlers in his hand, he came over and he was standing beside me. It was plain view, it just turned its head and bit him in the back of the hand before, within a second."
Coots, he went on, initially dropped the snake and several others but then picked them up again. But within minutes, the wounded Coots made his way to the restroom.
Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe said that local officials found out later that Jamie Coots had died at his home of the snakebite wound at around 10 p.m. Saturday. He had left his church earlier and made his way home, refusing medical treatment for the bite.
Jamie Coots' son, Cody, said his father had suffered eight bites from snakes before. Family members believed the latest would just be added to the list of snakebites he had survived.
National Geographic, which produced the reality show "Snake Salvation," released a statement noting Coots' "devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced."
The statement went on: "Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith. We were honored to be allowed such unique access to pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship."
Coots' brand of worship was derived from the biblical text in the Book of Mark: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
Coots told the Associated Press in February 2013 that his church "literally" believed the passage and that they'd handled snakes there for over 20 years.
Although the practice is illegal in the state of Kentucky, Middleboro Police Chief Sharpe told TMZ he will not enforce the law, claiming boundaries between church and state.